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The story behind child poverty data

When children grow up in material hardship, there is not enough money to go around. Children miss out on warm homes, quality food and other crucial aspects of their lives...

When children grow up in material hardship, there is not enough money to go around. Children miss out on warm homes, quality food and other crucial aspects of their lives. Their childhoods are marred by stress.

Statistics New Zealand invited UNICEF NZ to attend the release of Child poverty statistics: Year ended June 2018 which surveyed between 3,000 and 5,500 households.

According to the report, around 15 percent of children lived in households with an income that was less than 50 percent of the median equivalised disposable household income, before housing costs are deducted.

But what could this look like for a Kiwi family?

A family of two parents and two children living in Wellington are on the median wage. They have a combined weekly income of $2,038 before tax (106,000 per year).

After tax, the family have $1,450 to pay for the families expenses, including housing, clothing, utilities, health, transport, food etc.

According to research1, families need $1,783 per week to meet a standard of living in NZ.

Around 15 percent of families have half this amount, an estimated $725 weekly after tax income.

UNICEF NZ is concerned that some families and whānau might be unwilling to share accurate data about their lives. Families and whānau who have good incomes could be more likely to respond to Statistic New Zealand’s survey.

“Parents and whānau are worried they might be discriminated against and lose their children because they’re not meeting society’s standard of living. Some families might have had negative experiences in the past with the State and are reluctant to share the full picture of their lives” says Belinda Tuari-Toma, Kaiwhakahau o ngā Tamariki, UNICEF NZ.
“For those families and whānau in material hardship, they might say yes to everything they should say no to, and they might say no to everything they should say yes to or just simply not understand or see how sharing this information will ever in the immediate and long-term improve their overall circumstances” says Tuari-Toma.

In order to obtain accurate data on material hardship, we need to be knocking on all doors particularly those disadvantaged communities. Their participation is crucial so that we can understand what material hardship means for Aotearoa – New Zealand Kiwi Kids. Their voices must be heard so we can support future generations.

UNICEF New Zealand can play a significant role in brokering relationships with Māori and Pasifika iwi groups. UNICEF NZ's Te Hiringa Tamariki (a tamariki Māori perspective on well-being) has enabled us to have meaningful korero with Māori.

UNICEF NZ would like future surveys to take into account the rising costs of living. Buying power must be reflected in data to accurately depict the challenges for families and whānau.

An average  grocery shop that cost $316 for couples with two dependent children in Wellington in 20163, would now cost over $330 in 2019. This has a huge impact on families and whānau trapped in material hardship.

It is encouraging to see the steps Statistics New Zealand is taking to ensure that more communities are represented in future surveys. By 2020, data will be collected by region and ethnicity. The sample size will increase to 20,000 households (up from between 3,000 and 5,500 households).

Behind every piece of data on material hardship, a child is missing out on the material, spiritual and emotional resources needed to survive, develop and thrive.

1 Cost of Living calculator

2 Cost of Living Ranking by Country

3 Household Expenditure Guide